E-Mail from California Institute of Integral Studies President Joseph Subbiondo to CIIS Community, April 14, 2006

From: Joseph Subbiondo
Sent: Friday, April 14, 2006 3:48 PM
To: Community
Subject: Diversity Concerns and Responses

Dear CIIS Community:

On Wednesday, in response to a student letter to me, I met with the students who had signed the letter. I called the meeting on short notice because I sensed that an immediate response by me was necessary; and my sense was affirmed when more than 65 students filled the faculty-staff lounge. The students who had written the letter had expressed their distress over an article that a faculty member had written 40 years ago and had made available to his class — an article that they considered to be extremely racist.

This cross-cultural and cross-gender student group considered the article as the most recent example of what they perceived as institutional racism, and they intensely raised concerns about their educational experience. They could not understand how this article could be included in the CIIS curriculum without any action taken by the Institute. Wednesday’s meeting, along with other meetings of late, makes it apparent that many CIIS students are extremely frustrated because they expect that a CIIS education will prepare them to be culturally competent professionals. They do not believe that this expectation is being met consistently throughout all departments. They also believe that they have raised these issues repeatedly, indicated their opinions on faculty evaluations, and complained to various program directors – all to no avail in their view. They raised many issues regarding their CIIS education including curriculum quality, academic standards, current scholarship, faculty competence, student grievance, and retaliation by faculty in a particular program to dissenting faculty and students.

I promised the student group that I would send a letter to the community indicating the steps that we have taken and will take to investigate this incident; and more importantly, how we will ensure that CIIS will live its ideals. And so I write today.

In response to several questions that I raised, the Diversity Action Team (DAT) met yesterday and recommended:

  • In light of the complaints that have been levied against the Psychology Doctoral program as a whole, DAT recommends that CARC move PsyD to the top of it’s list to be next in line for a program review.  While this would delay other programs scheduled for review, DAT believes that immediate attention to this program is an important step in supporting it in addressing issues brought by students.
  • DAT recommends an immediate investigation of Leland van den Daele’s LifeSpan Development class and the use of the article Preschool Intervention Through Social Learning for Disadvantaged Children be initiated, within two weeks from today 4/13/2006 and concluded in a timely manner. This investigation should include recommendations for actions if appropriate. There was also discussion that the investigation should come from individuals outside of the Institute.
  • A subcommittee of DAT members and others will be formed to develop a course or co-curricular program proposal that would provide an educational experience for all CIIS faculty, staff and students (possibly very different programs for each group). 
  • L’esa Guilian will work with DAT to restructure it to be more accessible to current issues.

Judie Wexler has already taken the lead in investigating the incident, and I see no reason to go outside the institute for an investigator. So far, Judie has:

  • informed Katie McGovern (3/27) of the article written by Leland and discussed in his class.
  • spoken with two students (4/4) in the class.
  • spoken with Katie and Leland (4/13) about the article and the class.  Leland agreed to bring an African American psychologist into his class who can speak about child development in the African American community.  He agreed to tell the class that he is doing this in recognition of impressions that seem to have been created by the article.

Judie also emphasized that the incident with Leland is related to the diversity issues the PsyD students discussed with the WASC team, and that  the issues raised about the program are not only about Leland.  Judie has informed Katie (3/27) what was said to the WASC team, met with Monique and the PsyD student representatives to ask them to organize a meeting with the PsyD students. That meeting will be on Wednesday, April 19, and will give Judie an opportunity to hear directly from the students. This will serve as a fact-finding meeting. 

In addition, Judie indicates that:

  • after this meeting  she will meet with the PsyD faculty.
  • she has asked L’esa to look into creating a series of diversity workshops for the PsyD faculty.  The first one would be this semester.  This was something that Katie and Judie had talked about but haven’t made happen yet.
  • she supports asking CARC to look at a PsyD program review in regard to diversity.

As an additional response L’esa, Arisika Razak and Monique LeSarre are planning a panel discussion of Psychologists to address the issue of developmental psychology, its history, and current perspectives with regard to ethnicity.

I am extremely grateful to the students for their constructive criticism and inspiring love of CIIS and to all who are responding to these issues by moving thoughtfully and quickly to resolve them. I will keep you posted of our progress.


Schools: California Institute of Integral Studies Cases: California Institute of Integral Studies: Assault on Professor’s Academic Freedom